Colts linebacker Robert Mathis has received plenty of support in the wake of the news that he’ll be suspended four games for violating the league’s policy regarding performance-enhancing substances.
From his agent to his coach and now to the union that agreed to include the fertility drug Mathis took on the list of banned substances, everyone is embracing the veteran — and no one (other than the league) is suggesting that he actually broke a rule.
“We are disappointed in Roger’s decision,” NFLPA president Eric Winston said in a statement issued by the union. “Given the set of facts that Robert, medical experts and our union presented, upholding this suspension shows a lack of compassion and perspective. We support Robert and are happy for him and his family.”
Mathis explained in a separate statement that he took the banned substance to assist with efforts to conceive a child, and that those efforts were successful.
Still, the policy as negotiated by the union doesn’t have a “compassion and perspective” exception. It’s strict liability; if the player has a banned substance in his system, it’s a violation.
If the union didn’t want its players to be subject to such a system, the union never should have agreed to it. And if the union now wants the system to include an exception for “compassion and perspective,” the NFL probably would at least consider that possibility — in exchange for a corresponding concession.